In our continuing Sauga 960 radio interview series, we examine the world of sales and how to get started on the right foot. Sales 101! Part 1
Your Business, presented by David Wojcik, understands business. As the CEO/President of the Mississauga Board of Trade, he focuses on current commercial issues and how they affect entrepreneurs and key executives.
David Wojcik: Welcome back to Your Business on News Talk Saga 960. I’m your host, David Wojcik. Have you just started your business and have no clue how to sell? Or, you have a great business and you’re looking to expand and need some sales help? Many people tell me that great salespeople are born, a natural gift of the gab, but in today’s market, those two myths couldn’t be farther from the truth.
David Wojcik: To help us with our series on Sales 101 is one of the best in the business of sales training. Linda Kern is the CEO of the Kern Group. Linda specializes in helping companies increase their sales by first identifying the right activities to ensure growth, and then working with the sales professionals and their leaders to show them how to find and close new sources of revenue. Welcome, Linda. Thanks for coming. Thanks for joining us on the phone.
Linda Kern: You’re most welcome, David. Happy to be here.
David Wojcik: So, let’s break those two myths. Linda, I know that you are a very outgoing individual. People might look at you and say, “Oh, you’re a natural-born salesperson. You love to talk. You love to meet people.” But we know that salespeople can be made and they are not just born. Correct?
Linda Kern: Yeah. I mean, I think there is some truth to that. I’d say that there’s definitely a lot to be learned, and we can certainly teach people. They can be taught. They can be coached and enabled for their success.
Linda Kern: There is, however, a component, though, of what is it that you love to do? Do you love being with people? Do you love meeting people? Can you be coaxed into meeting people? And are you good with a job that sometimes feels a little bit unstructured, in that you’re having to pivot and re-prioritize on the fly? So, there is a component of maybe born into it, it might be a bit strong to say, but what is it that you enjoy doing, I would say, and then, yeah, 100% can be taught.
David Wojcik: So let’s start the 101 course here Linda. First of all, when you are hiring a salesperson, what are you looking for? Because we hire for attitude. We train for aptitude. You can train them in product development. You can train people on systems and things like that. So, what are you looking for when you’re going to hire a salesperson?
Linda Kern: So you’re right about the attitude part. Absolutely looking for somebody who takes initiative, somebody who’s demonstrated the ability to be a bit of a self starter, somebody who is driven and looking to achieve. They tend to be a result-focused, tracking their progress. Because it’s definitely a profession where it is very easy to measure the success of somebody, as a salesperson.
David Wojcik: That’s the great thing about sales.
Linda Kern: You’re pretty exposed.
David Wojcik: That’s a great thing about sales, very easy to measure the success rate.
Linda Kern: Exactly. Exactly. So, we’re still looking for that attitude and aptitude, or that attitude and those personal characteristics. I’d still say that, and I do advise my clients, “You’re still looking for that.” Because if they have that, and I’ve even said this to my young adult kids, that drive that pulls the person along, that positive attitude, that initiative, that self-starting, that pulls the desire to learn the job along, and to have a positive attitude and to say, “What do I need to do to be successful?”
David Wojcik: Now, in the good old days of sales, we throw the salespeople out on the road and we’d say, “Here’s some brochures.” Give them a little bit of training, and they would go door to door and bring back business. In today’s market, there’s a lot of administration that needs to be done in order to provide that tracking mechanism because we know that sales is the result, but the hard work goes in up front. So, how do you know, how do you determine through that hiring process, if you have a person that understands the administrative side of the business?
Linda Kern: You know, a couple of questions that I like to ask, a couple of my favorite questions that will get to the heart of where somebody’s thought process is going forward. So, a question that I advise my clients, staff, that I will ask as well, when I help them hire is, “In three months, if this job was the perfect job for you, and everything worked out perfectly,” and it might be two months, it might be six months, but it’s usually that two to three months where the honeymoon phase starts to fade, “What does that job look like? What is that perfect and ideal scenario in three months?” And then they answer.
Linda Kern: And then I also want, if I’m in an interview with the hiring manager, I will ask the hiring manager in front of the candidates that same question, and that way they’re sharing things that, if this was perfect for both of us, this is what it looked like. And then I flip the question around and say, “In three months from now, if this was the worst job you’ve ever had and you made a huge mistake, what would that look like?”
Linda Kern: And that tends to bring out what they’re looking for from a job. Because we’ve been through that. We’ve been through, in previous jobs, we’ve been through, “Ugh, I made a total mistake. This is not the right place for me.” And so, they reflect on those experiences.
David Wojcik: So once again, we hire slow, fire fast.
Linda Kern: Yeah, definitely. And definitely with sales people. Definitely don’t rush. Resist the temptation to go, “Finally I’m going to fill that position. Finally, somebody who’s got industry experience. I like them. Everybody else likes them.” Sales people interview well, so take your time.
Linda Kern: The other thing I advise is, and I heard this actually at a conference last week, is take that person outside of a business setting. Take them for lunch, maybe take them for dinner, maybe take them out with their spouse or partner. You’re trying to get to know what’s behind the facade, break down those formal barriers of how they would answer an interview question, and really get to see what they’re like more personally, if you will. But definitely take your time in hiring them.
David Wojcik: And what are we looking for? What are some of the danger signs that we might find in the hiring process?
Linda Kern: Hmm, that’s a good question. I’m very much into the character and the attitude of the person. So I would watch out for, I don’t like a temper. That’s hard to get to, but when you get to a personal, maybe a dinner, as opposed to a lunch, even, quite frankly, because that’s an off hour. I’m watching for somebody who’s a short fuse. I want to hear some stories of successes they’ve had in the past. Like an actual story, some challenges or you might call it failures they’ve had in the past.
Linda Kern: The other thing you’re watching for is always tap into your instincts. You can tell when someone’s telling a real story, and you can tell when somebody is using words like, “I would do this.” “This is how I have handled it.” You’re watching the body language and the authenticity of the storytelling, and then you’ll know if it’s a real story.
David Wojcik: Well, I’m going to do some role playing with you at some point in time, see if you could tell whether I’m telling a story or whether I’m telling reality.
Linda Kern: Yeah, you’re hard to read for me. You caught me once.
David Wojcik: Oh, you’re talking about my Antarctic story?
Linda Kern: Yeah!
David Wojcik: Yeah, that was a good one, wasn’t it?
Linda Kern: Oh, that’s a good one. You got to share that one day.
David Wojcik: Anyways, Linda, you’re going to come back on a regular basis. We’re going to go through this Sales 101 series and the next time we talk, we can talk about maybe some of those first days of hiring, of what you should be doing with your sales person when you’re bringing them on board.
Linda Kern: You got it.
David Wojcik: All right. Thanks Linda.
Linda Kern: Thanks.
David Wojcik: Thanks so much for being with us.